Hurricane Ida battered Louisiana, moved on to Mississippi as a tropical storm, and is now heading to the mid-Atlantic and northeast states as a tropical depression that could still bring “;significant and life-threatening flash flooding,”; according to the National Weather Service. Electricity has been restored to some buildings in New Orleans, but even the restoration of electricity to the area is expected to take weeks, and fixing the damaged homes will take far longer.
While people in the region go without electricity or running water and with compromised shelter, they face significant danger–;and even more extreme discomfort–;from the heat and humidity, often as they confront severe damage to their homes and sort through their ruined possessions, looking for anything that can be salvaged. These, of course, are mostly the people who didn”;t have the option to leave, the people who may have desperately wanted to leave but couldn”;t scrape together the money, even by going to a predatory payday lender.
Disasters in the United States fall most heavily on the already disadvantaged, and the disaster of Hurricane Ida isn”;t over. Days before the storm arrived, the Supreme Court gave landlords the green light to evict people despite the COVID-19 risks of evictions. Then Ida hit states in which huge numbers of renters–;almost one in five in Louisiana and one in 10 in Mississippi–;already said they were at risk of eviction.
“;All of a sudden, after disasters, there”;s less housing supply because a lot of homes are destroyed, but then there are also more people displaced from their homes for socially constructed reasons –; and both groups need to find housing,”; the National Low Income Housing Coalition”;s Sarah Saadian told Grist. “;So that usually creates a cycle where landlords raise their prices and oftentimes continue evicting people, even if there”;s no damage to their property, so they can make money.”;
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Grist reports, average rental prices rose by 82% and homelessness rose sharply. Ida hit a population already made even more fragile by COVID-19, one likely cause of mass eviction coming on top of another.
The coronavirus pandemic and the hurricane alike are showing us how broken our system is. If we turn our eyes away from the suffering not just coming directly from illness or water and electrical outages but from the poverty and economic inequality that”;s created and perpetuated by policy and politics, we miss what”;s really happening here. And with climate change making severe weather and natural disasters–;from intense hurricanes to wildfires–;more common, it”;s going to keep happening, only more and worse.
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